Organisers deny yoga conference linked to 'cult'

This is Local London/August 27, 2008

A yoga conference held at Epsom College has been linked to an alleged cult that has been accused of exploiting its members.

College staff were forced to monitor the week-long event organised by North-Wales based Dru Yoga after receiving complaints about the organisation last week.

Dru Yoga, formerly known as the Life Foundation and headed by self-styled guru Mansukh Patel, has been the subject of claims it is engaged in cult activities.

Former members of the Life Foundation have accused the organisation of exploiting them financially, sexually and psychologically in the past.

The organisation denied it was a cult or that members had been exploited.

Dru Yoga's annual conference was historically held at Bangor University in North Wales but it was banned two years ago, forcing it to look for alternative locations.

It had attempted to gain affiliation with Bangor's Student's Union in 2006 but was refused permission after concerns over cult activities.

A copy of minutes of the meeting said: "[Dru Yoga's] affiliation was refused as they are associated with the Life Foundation, an organisation based in Bethesda which allegedly engages in cult practice."

The organisation has also been investigated by police in the past and is listed as a cult on the website Cult Information Centre.

Ian Hawthorn of the CIC said: "We have been concerned about the activities of the Life Foundation for many years.

"I have received lots of calls from people concerned about the group, many of whom are ex-members.

"The concerns I have regarding this group are the same as those I have about much larger groups, such as the Moonies."

A North Wales police spokeswoman confirmed they had investigated complaints of fraud about Dru Yoga, but were not currently investigating them and no charges had been brought against the organisation.

Hundreds of yoga students attended the various classes, some flying in from as far as Canada, Kenya and Australia.

Epsom College headteacher Stephen Borthwick said his school contacted Bangor University with their concerns and kept the group under observation throughout the week.

"Some of the allegations go back some time and some go back to a couple of years ago," he said.

"We contacted Bangor University and the people we spoke to gave us no reason to be concerned.

"There is a reasonable small residential community scattered in the school and none of those people said they were concerned at anything the group was doing.

"I need to be able to talk to everybody, but so far the feedback I've had about them has been okay."

Chris Barrington, a director of Dru Yoga denied they were involved in cult practices and claimed that former members of the Life Foundation had fabricated rumours in an attempt to discredit it.

He said: "Several people who were involved with us went their own way and as a result started making some outrageous stories out what we do.

"It is essentially people who have been disaffected from their experience.

"When people come and work with you they have their own issues.

"The allegations are essentially untrue.

"We're reputable, we're trying to do good work. We have an amazing team. Yoga is a very powerful approach and it works. "

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